Cappoquin House stands high above the town of Cappoquin in County Waterford. The hill below the house falls away so steeply that the town is completely invisible, although the superb view to the South, looking straight down the tidal valley of the River Blackwater as it flows to meet the sea at Youghal, is completely uninterrupted. The house, which replaces a medieval castle of the FitzGerald family on the same site, is a fine classical building that dates from 1799, and it is still occupied by the descendants of the original owners.
The Keanes of County Waterford are descendants of an old Ulster family, the O’Cahans of County Derry, who lost their lands beside the River Bann in the Ulster Plantations of the early seventeenth century. They were resettled west of the River Shannon and next rose to prominence as lawyers in County Waterford, where they acquired the Cappoquin estate from the family of the Earls of Cork in the early eighteenth century. The River Blackwater, a famous salmon river, is tidal and navigable as far upstream as Cappoquin, and the town was originally developed around the mines and ironworks whose products were exported from its quays.
Cappoquin House is large and of two stories, with three formal fronts. The principal facade, with five bays of cut limestone, a breakfront and a balustrade with urns, faces down the river valley. The North front faces a fine enclosed courtyard, with the walled garden beyond, while the West front, which looks out over the park, was given a pedimented loggia as part of the 20th century reconstructions. An attached wing at the East is lower in height and is part of the earlier house, with a fine late seventeenth century door-case.
In the past two potential architects have been suggested; John Roberts of Waterford and the Sardinian Davis Ducart (or Davisco d'Arcort) who was responsible for some of the best houses in Munster during the second half of the eighteenth century. More recently, the late Knight of Glin attributed the house to the elder Abraham Hargrave (1755 - 1808) a Yorkshireman who built up an extensive country house practise near Cork City and along the valley of the River Blackwater, and who lived about twelve miles off at Ballynoe.
The country houses of politicians became a regular target during the Civil War that followed Irish Independence so, when Sir John Keane was elected to the Senate in the new Irish Free State, he anticipated an attack. With considerable foresight he removed the contents and many of the fixtures, and placed them securely in storage. It transpired that his premonition was well founded and the house was duly burnt, but by the nineteen thirties he felt sufficiently confident to rebuild with the advice of Richard Orpen, brother of the famous portraitist. In the ensuing remodelling the facade became the garden front, while the North front, facing into the enclosed courtyard, became the entrance.
Orpen’s internal decoration carefully follows the original, with all the fixtures and contents reinstated and the late eighteenth century plasterwork faithfully reproduced. Today the garden front gives onto a small and beautiful parterre, while the walled garden, which covers the hillside above the house, is renowned for its fine planting and for the panoramic views of the Blackwater Valley, which open up and improve as you climb the hill.
Address & ContactCappoquin House, Cappoquin, Waterford
t: +353 58 54290
f: +353 58 54698
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